Snow Light by Danielle Zinn
Most parts of my debut novel Snow Light were written while I was on the road. But let me start at the beginning.
Three years ago I came back from a stunning holiday in Australia – of course, with a couple of books I had gathered along the way. Immediately I fell in love with the writing style of one of them and with Christmas approaching surprisingly fast, as it does every year, I decided to write a crime novel as a Christmas present for my parents. The initial idea was to write it, print it, have it nicely bound, wrap it and give it away. Unfortunately, I underestimated the amount of time it takes to write a book by 100%. Christmas came and went and I hadn’t managed to get beyond chapter three.
It took me around two months to create the setting, characters and plot and another six months to write the entire first draft. The characters and plot are all made up; the described Christmas traditions as well as the setting of Turtleville in the Ore Mountains however, are real. I gave the first three chapters to my mum to read, asking her for a brutally honest opinion – if she didn’t like it, I would stop writing. Fortunately, she enjoyed it and asked for more. This was the first major make-or-break point in my still very young life as an author.
I work full time as a Financial Controller at an IT Consultancy, so the time I had available to write was limited. For months on end, I spent evening after evening holed up with my laptop in my apartment – no TV, no meeting friends. In the late afternoon I was always anticipating the moment I could finally leave the office, go home and be in the company of DI Thomas, Sky, Barney and DS Collins again. Writing Snow Light and working with words rather than figures was a stark contrast to my daytime duties where I was busy mulling over financial reports. For my job I also have to travel quite a bit, mainly across Germany. So the book was not only written at my desk at my apartment but also at airports, on trains and in countless hotel rooms between Hamburg and Munich.
Once the writing was done, a long series of editing and proofreading began. I let a handful of carefully chosen people into the inner circle of knowledge about me having written a detective mystery. They were all thrilled and read the manuscript with excitement, however, none of them actually had the time to mark errors. I realized that I was at a dead end with my proofreading and editing skills. One reason for not finding my own grammar mistakes is certainly the fact that I’m not a native English speaker.
I was born in Germany to German parents and raised with the German language only. So how come the book turned out to be in English? This is actually my mother’s fault. She is an English teacher and at the tender age of six I got my very first Oxford children’s dictionary. So instead of reading bedtime stories about pirates and witches, my mum and I danced through the seasons and the months of the year. I travelled a lot with my parents across English-speaking countries, always bringing as many English books back home as the airline’s luggage restriction would allow. The English language was an ever present constant throughout my life so to me there was never the question of which language a book should be written in.
But getting back to my cul-de-sac of editing. I decided that I wanted to have a perfect book without any mistakes and since I was not able to produce that by myself, I needed help. But there was a second reason. Without it being edited professionally, I didn’t dare send it out to any publisher or literary agent.
There are numerous companies out there that provide proofreading and editing services. Most of them also offer to do a free sample. I sent my manuscript out to around twenty different companies based in Germany, the UK, USA and Canada and after comparing their work, decided to go with the latter. Three weeks later, I received my ‘baby’ back together with fantastic suggestions regarding content, style and grammar. I was absolutely satisfied with their work even though it was quite a costly learning experience. Once the manuscript was polished, I set out to find literary agents and publishers in the UK and USA who accepted unsolicited manuscripts. I spent countless evenings canvassing the Internet and eventually noted that I wasn’t done with my work yet. Having an edited manuscript only, doesn’t get you through any publisher’s door. You also needed a query letter, synopsis and a summary of chapters. Homework time again.
Finally, nearly three years after I had created the first character, I had all required documents together to send them out to publishing agencies. I became aware of Bloodhound Books fairly early on in my Internet research; not only because they represent the perfect genre for Snow Light and I had already read some books by authors they represent, but I have to admit that I fell in love with their logo – the bloodhound dog. A couple of days after sending them the first three chapters, I received an email requesting the entire manuscript. I was bouncing off the walls with joy that someone showed interest in my work as I also got my fair share of rejections. A week later I had signed my first book contract. Little did I know how much work still lay ahead of me. Writing a book is like playing with a boomerang. Whenever you think you’re finally done, there’s a knock on the door behind you and it hits you again. I’ve learnt that there is never really a final version and I’ve changed the way I name manuscripts after I had reached the “really_final_final_version” stage. I’m thankful beyond words for everything Bloodhound Books and its entire team has done for me and for the experience I was allowed to gather in the publishing world – an industry I had no knowledge of whatsoever.
(c) Danielle Zinn
About Snow Light:
When Detective Inspector Nathaniel Thomas encounters a man attacking a young woman in a local park, the DI is unable to save her. Out of guilt, Thomas quits his job at Homicide Headquarters and relocates to the tiny village of Turtleville, where he regains control of himself and begins to enjoy life again.
However, a year later, all the guilt and shame of the park murder re-emerges when a local hermit, Ethan Wright, is murdered with an unusual weapon and left on display in the centre of the village.
For Thomas the situation gets worse when DS Ann Collins, a colleague from his past, appears to help with the case. But things become complicated when the victim’s identity is put into question.
Who is the victim? And why was he murdered?
Thomas and Collins will find themselves trying to solve a highly unusual case and both may have more in common than they could have ever imagined.
Order your copy online here.